Why Ireland's economic model doesn't help Scottish separatism

Why Ireland's economic model doesn't help Scottish separatism

by The Dissenter
article from Wednesday 24, February, 2021

MUCH OF the Republic of Ireland’s support for the EU in recent Brexit negotiations was smothered in barely disguised Anglophobia. 

A feature of this was the promotion of a healthy and wealthy Irish economy that showed how much it no longer needed to be tied to ‘perfidious Albion’. Ireland could stand on its own two feet, albeit embedded in the rocks of the EU. 

This of course echoes much of earlier work commissioned by mystery people, and lauded by Sinn Fein as to how the Republic could easily afford to adsorb Northern Ireland. 

While some SNP supporters dabble around Irish Republican causes the SNP leadership has been mostly careful to avoid overt association with Sinn Fein – though Brexit created opportunity more for Sinn Fein to be associated with ‘peaceful nationalism’ than it did any favours for the SNP

​Leaving aside associations with Sinn Fein, any association with the cause of Irish independence poses difficulties for the SNP. 

The most obvious difficulty is arguing the inevitability of the uniting of an island as a natural political entity. That doesn’t work for an SNP that seeks to split Great Britain into two political/economic territories. 

True they both share antipathy bordering on racism towards ‘The English’ or ‘The Brits’ – the name makes little difference, it’s still ‘othering’. The SNP hierarchy, however, prefers to avoid, the sort of thing that gets any political leader into trouble. The undercurrent and association is, nevertheless, still visible if you look.

Where you might think the SNP is on firmer ground is pointing to a small independent country that broke away from Westminster, declared independence (finally in 1947) and has since become a successful economy and a full partner in the EU. 

You might, but you don’t hear that very often. With good reason. The Celtic Tiger came and went – though the hubris is taking longer to deflate than the property bubble. Why would the Republic of Ireland not wish to promote itself as a successful economy and much-loved small nation firmly in the EU Club? 

The speed with which the EU moved to trigger (only pulled at last minute) Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol that sits with the Withdrawal Agreement as the UK terms of exit addresses that ‘much loved’ moniker – the Republic wasn’t even consulted on the manoeuvres in Brussels until after the Commission had already decided its course of action. 

Believing Irish views weren’t that important isn’t new, though rarely mentioned. The Troika that basically ran the Irish state in the wake of the Tiger economic crash showed that German and French bankers mattered far more than Irish households who will be paying for decades. In this period the German Bundestag had sight of the Irish budget before the Cabinet in Dublin!  

Much of Ireland’s claim to be a successful economy rests on its GDP figures. That, however, is questionable. An IMF study reported that almost two-thirds of Irish FDI is “phantom’.  Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, calls the Irish model “leprechaun economics”.  A report by Global Britain – The Irish economic miracle - Fact or Fiction? – detailed how multinational corporations headquartered in the Republic attribute the vast majority of their EU turnover to Ireland alone so they may pay an effective tax rate of less than five per cent – inflating Ireland's GNI in 2017 by a staggering £100bn (38 per cent). Now there’s the news that NatWest is exiting the Republic’s banking sector because of lack of long-term prospects hardly screams confidence in the Republic’s future economy. 

In a recent ‘letter’ for the Central Bank of Ireland, Patrick Honohan, Governor 2009-2015, seeks to answer the question: “Is Ireland really the most prosperous Country in Europe”. He opens with: “Most people know that Ireland is not really the most prosperous economy in Europe.” He concludes in the final paragraph: “Ireland is a prosperous country, but not as prosperous as if often thought because of the inappropriate use of misleading, albeit conventional statistics.” 

The economist Dr Graham Gudgin places much of the reason for Irish “wealth” to being a consequence of the country being one of the world’s largest tax havens – corporate money ‘rests’ in Irish accounts, while little ends up in the pockets of Irish households or Government coffers. He states: 

“It means that after 60 years as a tax haven and 48 years inside the EU, the Republic Ireland has not managed to raise the living standards of its people to that in Northern Ireland. If the Republic of Ireland were to rejoin the UK, it would be as the UK’s poorest region just as it was a century ago. While tax haven status and EU membership have worked for the Irish elite, the majority of Irish citizens have gained little. Hence the rise of Sinn Fein in the South.”

The establishment of the SNP is slow to provide a template for a future Scottish economy that doesn’t rely on the same “inappropriate use of misleading” statistics. If it has designs on challenging the Republic of Ireland and Luxemburg as a tax haven for corporate elites it really should fess up. 

More to the point, the SNP case on how things would be better in a new Scotland freed from Westminster seems to add up to little more than ‘it just would’. That is the language of the infants’ playground.  

In his Scotsman column this week,  Brian Monteith makes the point that engaging the SNP on the ‘it would: it would not’ level of dialogue around an independence referendum, and independence itself, misses the reality of Scots’ day-to-day life that is ever-poorer because of SNP mismanagement. 

The SNP feeds on the politics of grievance, misdirected to blame, variously, the Tories, the English, Boris, Westminster. The cost of lack of good and competent government goes un-noticed by default. 

Oliver Lewis was right. Who will take on the SNP, who will change the game?

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@thedissenter blogs regularly at www.thedissenter.co.uk and produces the PoliticalOD podcast along with @3000Versts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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